Experts baffled by rash of massive dust storms around the world

The sandstorm hit Egypt after unusually warm and sunny weather for a February day, and the sky over downtown Cairo turned yellow and blotted out the sun, limiting visibility
The sandstorm hit Egypt after unusually warm and sunny weather for a February day, and the sky over downtown Cairo turned yellow and blotted out the sun, limiting visibility

This year has seen a rash of massive dust storms around the world that have led to travel chaos and blocked out sunlight – but experts cannot pinpoint the reason behind the spate.

This week incredible footage showed the moment an unusual ‘apocalyptic’ dust storm, known in Arabic as a haboob, struck Belarus, turning day to night, and China has suffered four massive sandstorms since the start of the year.

Some experts have said that climate change bringing excessive heat can make some areas more susceptible to dust storms, but one European scientist pointed out that the number of dust storms over the decades has always been variable.

The footage of the dust storm in Belarus, filmed from a high rise apartment, shows traffic moving along a busy street in the province of Salihorsk, south of the capital of Minsk on Monday afternoon.

As dark clouds move over the city, the entire area is plunged into darkness – forcing motorists to turn on their lights as they navigate the darkened roads.

The storm was caused by a cold front moving in from the Ukrainian-Belorusian border, reported RT.

Earlier this month Britain was shrouded in a cloud of Saharan dust, known as ‘blood rain,’ as the temperatures soared.

Dr Steven Godby, a geographer researching the effects of blown sand and dust at Nottingham Trent University, explained how these events can occur.

Municipal workers remove broken tiles near the fence of Beirut's seaside corniche which was damaged by strong and high waves in Lebanon, Feb. 11, 2015.
Municipal workers remove broken tiles near the fence of Beirut’s seaside corniche which was damaged by strong and high waves in Lebanon, Feb. 11, 2015.
‘The dust is produced from source areas in North Africa, incorporated into a northerly airflow and can travel long distances before being deposited as far away as the UK.

‘However, the events we experience are small scale compared to those experienced closer to major dust sources.

And incredible pictures also taken at the beginning of April showed the moment ferocious red sandstorms devoured a city in China’s north west.

China’s pollution hit cities are now having to cope with a fresh nuisance – the massive sandstorm that struck the north-west of the country being the fourth this year alone.

The images show the city of Golmud, in the country’s north west Qinghai Province, as it succumbs to a sweeping half-hour sandstorm which reduced the visibility to as little as 30 metres, according to The People’s Daily Online.

China’s National Meteorological Centre (NMC) issued a blue alert for the sandstorms.

The red sand swept across the northern part of the country bringing strong winds and floating sand to the regions of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Ningxia and Shaanxi.

The organisation advised residents to stay indoors and local authorities to brace for the clean-up operation after the sandstorms.

China’s four-tier colour-coded weather warning system signifies red as the most severe followed by orange, yellow and blue.

Photos of the city of Dunhuang in the north-western province of Gansu show the thick orange haze coating the city’s atmosphere and the lack of people on the streets gave the area an almost alien planet appearance.

A raging sand storm sweeps in on the city of Golmud in north west China, where 200,000 people live
A raging sand storm sweeps in on the city of Golmud in north west China, where 200,000 people live
A local meteorologist said visibility was reduced to less than 50metres in downtown areas.

In December a small town in Queensland, Australia, experienced a dust storm that residents said was unprecedented in magnitude.

Clouds of dirt engulfed the town of Bedourie, in Queensland’s south-west, bringing with it a thick, dusty night for more than 90 minutes.

The Middle East has also experienced several huge sandstorms this year.

This week Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran experienced severe dust storms and last week the Arabian Peninsula was hit by a sandstorm the size of the U.S.

And in February raging sandstorms engulfed Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt causing the worst Israeli air pollution in years and whipping up huge waves in the Mediterranean Sea.

The storm, made up of accumulated dust carried from the far reaches of the Sahara Desert in North Africa also engulfed Cairo.

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry said air pollution levels were the country’s worst in five years.

The sandstorm that engulfed the Arabian Peninsula, meanwhile, wrecked havoc across the area, causing traffic accidents, the cancellation of hundreds of flights and triggering breathing difficulties among residents.

Images showed the vast sandstorm sweeping its way across Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates and reaching as far east as India and Pakistan over a period of seven days.

It began on April 1, when high winds whipped up the sandstorm in northern Saudi Arabia before it consolidated and began moving southeastward across the peninsula to eventually cover an area almost as large as the United States, Discover Magazine reported.

Along the way it caused chaos across the area’s major cities including Riyadh and Dubai, where some locations were reduced to zero visibility, streets turned a shade of orange and schools were forced shut.

The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies said: ‘The blowing sand reduced surface visibility to near zero at some locations, disrupting ground transportation, air traffic, and also closing schools.

WHY DUST STORM CHAOS IS SET TO GET EVEN WORSE

Dr Emilio Cuevas-Agulló, director of the Izana Atmospheric Research Center in Tenerife, Spain, told MailOnline that while it was difficult to say if there have been an increase in dust storms generally, population and urban growth in desert regions means an increased risk of people being affected by them.

He said: ‘We are more aware of the problem since we have much better monitoring, mainly from satellites, and forecast systems, in the last five to 10 years, and because the population growth and corresponding infrastructures increase in desert and arid regions, in recent decades, increasing vulnerability to the same dust episodes.’

He added: ‘Our longest dust records over the North Atlantic, downwind from the Sahara desert, which started in late 1970s show a great inter-annual variability and decadal changes, but we don’t really see positive trends.’

‘Visibility was reduced to 0.1 mile for several hours at Dubai International Airport, which is one of the world’s busiest in terms of volume of flights.’

More than 450 Saudi Arabian Airlines flights were cancelled between across three days which equalled 33 per cent of the carrier’s 1,526 scheduled flights, the Saudi Gazette reported.

On top of this, 678 flights were delayed and another 19 rerouted from airports in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam.

Dr Emilio Cuevas-Agulló, director of the Izana Atmospheric Research Center in Tenerife, Spain, told MailOnline that while it was difficult to say if there have been an increase in dust storms generally, population and urban growth in desert regions means an increased risk of people being affected by them.

He said: ‘We are more aware of the problem since we have much better monitoring, mainly from satellites, and forecast systems, in the last five to 10 years, and because the population growth and corresponding infrastructures increase in desert and arid regions, in recent decades, increasing vulnerability to the same dust episodes.’

He added: ‘Our longest dust records over the North Atlantic, downwind from the Sahara desert, which started in late 1970s show a great inter-annual variability and decadal changes, but we don’t really see positive trends.’

A Nasa study said: ‘Approximately half of the dust in today’s atmosphere may be the result of changes to the environment caused by human activity, including agriculture, overgrazing, and the cutting down of forests.’

Daily Mail

  • 5thDrawer

    Probably A LOT OF CEMENT DUST from the Muddled East too – especially Syria.

  • 5thDrawer

    More humans … More causes.

  • 5thDrawer

    And, in the world’s most polluted city …..
    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32352722

  • doron

    kill the forests = kill the planet. you should know that already from the happy “dust bowl” days in the 30’s

    • 5thDrawer

      Well, the prairies here had few trees … it was grasslands …. perfect for wheat. (build a sod house)
      Bad farming methods, coupled with a drought, accounted for the winds blowing half the topsoil away … some landed 4000 miles away. Some in the Atlantic. (13 inches of original topsoil became 6)
      Human activity changed a landscape in a short time.